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Sandy damage delayed MTA electronic security program another three years

NEW YORK - Superstorm Sandy added three years to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) already overdue and over budget post-9/11 security program, according to a progress report released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.  

"Superstorm Sandy dealt the MTA’s security plans a serious setback," DiNapoli said. "Although the MTA has made important security improvements, the first phase of its capital program is still not finished, more than twelve years after September 11, 2001. The sharp reduction in federal funds for transit security over the past four years has shifted more of the burden of securing the nation’s largest transit system to the MTA’s own resources."

When DiNapoli released his progress report in April 2012, the MTA had planned to wrap up phase 1 of its capital security program — safeguarding the most vulnerable and busiest stations, bridges and tunnels — by June 2014. Now, the MTA expects to finish phase 1 by late 2017 as a result of damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy. Phases 2 and 3 of the capital security program are underway, but they are also experiencing delays with one project delayed by almost a year.

Even before Superstorm Sandy, the cost of phase 1 had increased from $591 million to $883 million, largely because the cost of the electronic security program had nearly doubled. The storm caused significant damage to electronic devices, which will cost an additional $28 million to repair and will delay completion by three more years. The electronic security program includes the installation of more than 3,000 cameras and 1,400 access control devices in stations and tunnels, which are linked to a central command center.

If completed by late 2017, the electronic security program will be finished nine years past its initial contract deadline and 16 years after the terrorist attacks in 2001. Two of the MTA’s four operating agencies already have full operational capability and the other two are receiving important benefits from the portions of the program that have been completed. In addition, the New York City Police Department is monitoring video feeds from 1,000 cameras in the subway system. DiNapoli’s report notes that the MTA has made important security improvements, such as hardening the system against terrorist attacks, which have made the system much safer than before 9/11.

Federal funds for transit security have declined sharply since 2009.  Even when federal grants are available, the MTA risks losing the grants when delays push past federal deadlines. The MTA lost the use of nearly $46 million for its capital security program because of delays, although in this instance the federal government allowed the MTA to use the funds for other purposes. As a result, the MTA had to allocate more of its own money to prevent a halt in construction in capital security work.